Strengthen your hamstrings to avoid injury and improve performance.

I remember the day I learned about the next series of exercises.  I was attending a continuing education course with a guy who was recognized and respected as an authority in sports performance.  He said, “Nobody will strain their hamstrings if they master the hamstrings series on a physioball.” I’ve used these exercises with my clients since, but I refer to them as the Hamstrings Progressions on Swiss.  The name makes it sound more like a sandwich than an exercise series, but I’ve found them to be potent for building resilient hamstrings.

A key facet of these exercises that pertains to building resilient hamstrings is the eccentric contractions they put on your hamstrings.  An eccentric contraction is when a muscle group is lengthening under tension, which is the “down phase” of an exercise.  We’re going to use the barbell curl exercise to provide a simple example of what an eccentric contraction is. You start a barbell curl standing, holding the bar with the backs of your hands on your thighs, and your arms straight.  When you bend your elbows to lift the bar to your chest, your biceps muscles are shortening (called a concentric contraction).  When you bring the bar back down to your thighs by straightening your elbows, the biceps lengthen.  This is the eccentric contraction.

The reason this is significant is that most muscle strains happen with an eccentric contraction.  Even the microscopic muscle tears that cause muscles to be sore after a workout usually happen in the eccentric part of an exercise.  The more resilient your muscles are to eccentric contractions, the less likely you are to strain them.

The Hamstrings Progressions on Swiss progressively exposes your hamstrings to eccentric stress, which progressively builds resilience to eccentric stress.  This is key to understand, that your body adapting to eccentric stress is what makes it more resilient to injuries that are caused by eccentric stress.

More about this in this Hamstrings Progressions on Swiss video:

The benefits of the Hamstrings Progressions on Swiss exercise series include:

  • Progressive resilience of your hamstrings to eccentric stress, which makes them more resistant to injuries.
  • An engaging series of exercises where you master one before you progress to the next.
  • Building strength, size, and tone to your hamstrings and glutes.

I recommend the following approach to these exercises:

Level 1: bridge (knees stay bent 90 degrees)

Start with one set of 8 reps with your arms on the floor, and comfortably progress to 2 sets of 15 reps, with 1-minute rest in between sets.

When it’s easy to do 2 sets of 15 reps with your arms on the floor, use the same strategy to progress to 2 sets of 15 reps with your arms crossed on your chest.  You’ll notice is much more challenging to keep balanced on the ball as you lift and lower your hips.

Use the same approach used for Level 1 with the next three levels.

Getting to the point where you’re doing Level 4 for two sets of 15 reps, with your arms crossed on your chest, will take anywhere from 2 months to a year (or longer!) to accomplish.  Focus on the process and quality of each repetition, rather than a goal to get to Level 4. There’s no hurry!

Feel free to e-mail me at if you have any questions.